Saturday, June 23, 2007

Evan Almighty

"The Lord said to Noah, 'Make yourself an ark..." Gen. 6:14

This movie would seem like a no-brainer when it comes to finding God in Evan Almighty.

And yes, the movie has a core theme of helping to make the world a better place instead of focusing only on one's own self. There's also several sub-themes including fighting against corruption, standing for the environment, following your beliefs, and paying attention to your family.

However, the movie's plot and story actually cancel out these valuable moral messages.

In this movie, Evan Baxter (Steve Carrell) reprises his role from Bruce Almighty (2003); this time, though, Evan has been elected to Congress and takes his family to live in Washington DC. His campaign, won on the premise of making the world a better place, comes back to haunt him as God (Morgan Freeman) comes to cash in on that promise.

At this point in the movie, it's great. We sit in our church pews each Sunday and talk about the poor, the hungry, the dying people overseas and in our inner cities. We jump onto the newest charity or social cause (the environment, Habitat for Humanity, the tsunami, 9-11, etc.) but often times forget about it once the "fad" wears off. This movie, it seems, wants to remind us that God expects us to be truthful, consistant, and committed to the causes we profess.

But that's when the movie cancels out its fantastic message.

Soon, the film turns into a comedy riot watching Evan grow a long beard, don Biblical attire, and literally building a giant ark, probably an exact replica of the one featured in Genesis 6-8. In all this excitement, the audience forgets about the core message.

In a way, this movie contradicts itself. It seems the only way to change the world is to start talking, looking, dressing, and acting like someone from centuries-ago Palestine. In fact, as Evan becomes more Noah-like, he starts talking like he just memorized his Bible. Normal people with everyday lives, it seems, don't bring about change - only special saints are allowed to do that.

This movie is a radical departure from Bruce Almighty, which had an opposite premise: only when Bruce acts like a real human does he truly act "divine." Bruce is an accessible saint, one that we can all imagine ourselves in. Evan is aloof from our experiences (unless, of course, we have a spare ark in our backyard or talk with a Morgan Freeman-lookalike on a regular basis).

Imagine how it would have been if Evan was an ordinary guy who learned to save the environment or at least fulfill his campaign promises? These are the stories to inspire. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington felt more divine than this movie, and that one didn't need millions of dollars spent on training baboons and elephants.

So after seeing this movie, I went back to the first few scenes where I was hopeful for something great.

The message I took from this that we are called not just to say we're going to save the world, but to actually do something about it. Words mean nothing until we "cash them in" with God through our good works.

1 comment:

Claudia said...

Thanks for this review. Our parish is considering a year-long theme of "renewal" using the Biblical story of Noah. The temptation is to somehow include this movie because it is family-friendly, but after reading your review, I think any discussion of Evan Almighty would definitely have to include post-movie discussion!